SummertimeStaff favorite: Jet
I’m reading Summertime, by Nobel Prize winning author J.M. Coetzee, the highly awaited novel, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2009.

A young English biographer is working on a book about the late writer, John Coetzee. He plans to focus on the years from 1972-1977 when Coetzee, in his thirties, is sharing a run-down cottage in the suburbs of Cape Town with his widowed father. Never having met Coetzee, he embarks on a series of interviews with people who were important to him – a married woman with whom he had an affair, his favourite cousin Margot, a Brazilian dancer whose daughter had English lessons with him. From their testimony emerges a portrait of the young Coetzee as an awkward, bookish individual with little talent for opening himself to others. Within the family he is regarded as an outsider. His insistence on doing manual work, his long hair and beard, rumours that he writes poetry evoke nothing but suspicion in the South Africa of the time. Summertime completes the majestic trilogy of fictionalised memoir begun with Boyhood and Youth.

It’s written incredibly well. It’s heartbreaking, intriguing, revealing and funny. Coetzee makes a very complex idea work: a fictional character writing a biography about the late author’s life. Having spent six months near Cape Town, I very much enjoy his descriptions of South African life and culture, the dialogues in Afrikaans. I’m reading the Dutch edition, Zomertijd. Apparently, Coetzee gave his Dutch publisher, Cossee, permission to publish first. The English edition followed mid August; the American edition is coming out in December. Pre-order now!

Read an excerpt.
Hungry for more? J.M. Coetzee reads from Summertime.

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